Kenya: One million South Sudanese refugees flood East African states

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - South Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries have hit one million, including 185,000 people who fled fresh violence in Juba on 8 July, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said Friday.

In a new report on the status of refugees, UNHCR said South Sudanese refugees now rival Somali and Syrian refugees with more than a million refugees.

UNHCR spokesperson Leo Dobbs said during a news briefing in Geneva Friday, most of those who have fled South Sudan were women and children.

They included survivors of violent attacks, sexual assault, children who were separated from their parents or travelled alone, the disabled, the elderly and people in need of urgent medical care.

“Many refugees arrive exhausted after days walking in the bush and going without food or water," Dobbs said.

According to UNHCR, some 143,164 people out of the 185,000 people recently displaced have crossed into Uganda.

A growing number of people have entered Ethiopia’s western Gambella region in the past week and others have been heading to Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR).

“These countries have commendably kept their doors open to the new arrivals,” Dobbs told reporters, noting that the violence in July came as a major setback to peace efforts in South Sudan.

It came on the eve of the fifth anniversary since South Sudan's independence and amid a short-lived peace deal between supporters of President Salva Kiir and former First Vice President Riek Machar.

“The fighting has shattered hopes for a real breakthrough and triggered new waves of displacement and suffering, while humanitarian organizations are finding it very difficult for logistical, security and funding reasons to provide urgent protection and assistance to the hundreds of thousands in need, including 1.61 million internally displaced people,” Dobbs said.

Uganda is hosting the lion’s share of South Sudanese refugees, with 373,626, more than a third of them arrived since early July.

In the past week more than 20,000 new arrivals were recorded, primarily through the Oraba crossing in northwest Uganda.

New arrivals reported increased fighting across the Greater Equatoria region and attacks by armed groups that kill civilians, loot villages, sexually assault women and girls, and recruit young boys.

“Many refugees arrive exhausted after days walking in the bush and going without food or water. Many children have lost one or both of their parents, some forced to become primary caregivers to younger siblings,” Dobbs said.

A surge of people, more than 11,000, many of them from the Nuer tribe, have crossed into Gambella during the past week, bringing the number of South Sudanese refugees in that country to more than 292,000.

The majority were women and children, including some 500 children travelling alone.

Most had fled from Nasser, Maban, Mathiang and Maiwut in Upper Nile and cited insecurity and fears of renewed conflict after seeing significant troop movements.

New arrivals from Jonglei talked of food shortages as one reason for fleeing.

Neighbouring Sudan hosts the third largest number of South Sudanese refugees, 247,317, and people continue to come to the country’s East Darfur, South Darfur and White Nile states.

Those in the two Darfurs cite growing unrest and heightened food insecurity, especially in the northwestern states of Northern Bahr El Ghazal and Warrap, as their reasons for flight.

"Many children have lost one or both of their parents, some forced to become primary caregivers to siblings," the UNHCR official said.

Smaller numbers have been fleeing to Kenya, DRC and CAR since the return to conflict in July.

Some 300 people crossed into Kenya, citing insecurity, economic instability and drought and reporting that the flight corridor between Torit and Kapoeta remained dangerous due to armed bandits.

Kenya has over 90,000 South Sudanese refugees. DRC is experiencing an influx into Ituri province close to the border with South Sudan itself.

-0- PANA AO/AR 16Sept2016

16 september 2016 17:02:36

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